It’s more difficult than ever to get all the nutrients we need in our daily diets. This beginner’s guide to supplements will lead you towards better health.
In 2019 the global dietary supplements market size was estimated at over 123 billion dollars. It comes as no surprise then, that deciding which vitamins and supplements are beneficial and which are a waste of money can seem like an impossible task.
In this beginner’s guide to supplements, we’re going to take a look at the supplements you should be taking and how to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. So before you, part with your hard-earned cash let’s take a closer look at how to spot the highest quality.
How to Make Sure You Get the Best Supplements
Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t regulate the world of vitamins and supplements, but they have removed a number of them from the market after finding them to be unsafe or having misleading or false claims. There are, however, a number of precautions you can take to make sure your supplements are of the highest quality.
Be sure to always research the supplement first. Any reputable supplement will be backed by peer-tested clinical trials that have been carried out on humans. These studies will also highlight the recommended dose so you can cross-reference it with the amount stated on the supplements you are looking to buy.
The FDA doesn’t regulate vitamins and supplements, but there are third party companies who have taken on the role to help ensure that what’s in the bottle is what it says on the bottle. The four main companies to look out for are
- NSF International
- U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP)
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
USP and NSF actually list tested and verified products on their website so you can check there, but most supplement manufacturers will display the verifier’s mark on the product label. If the product isn’t verified then there’s no real way of knowing what you’re taking.
Avoid Propriety Blends
Your best option is to buy single-ingredient supplements. That way it’s easy to keep an eye on the actual dosage that’s in each tablet. If you’re buying a multi-vitamin or a supplement with more than one ingredient check to ensure that the dose of each active ingredient is stated. A lot of companies who offer supplements for detoxing or general health use doses way below what has been recommended in clinical trials.
Any supplement that uses a ‘propriety blend’ is a red flag. You’ll find this on the supplements fact label and it will give you a list of ingredients but no individual amount for any of them. With propriety blends, you have no idea if the amount of each active ingredient is large enough to have any significant effect.
What Supplements to Take
Now you know how to separate the good from the useless, let’s take a closer look at the best supplements and what vitamins to take to help improve and maintain your health. If you’re unsure about using any of the vitamins or supplements from this list then be sure to consult your physician before taking them.
Daily Vitamins & Minerals
Most people can get all the necessary vitamins from eating a healthy, balanced diet. That being said, about three-quarters of the US population is eating below the recommended dietary intake of fruits and vegetables. That means 75 percent of Americans are likely to be deficient in vitamins and minerals that are essential for bodily functions. The following vitamins and minerals are those most likely for individuals to be deficient in.
The average person will get most of their B vitamins from food, but the most common deficiencies are of B6 and B12. Vegans are at an increased risk of overall vitamin B deficiency, but unless instructed by your doctor, taking a vitamin B-complex supplement probably isn’t necessary. Instead, it’s best to focus on vitamin B6 and B12.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) plays a significant role in metabolism and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Common symptoms of deficiency are a weakened immune system, fatigue, and tingling in the extremities.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is often supplemented orally or as an injection. Vitamin B12 can boost your energy levels, improve your memory, and help to prevent heart disease. Symptoms of deficiency are much the same as B6 with the added extra of irritability.
If you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables then the chances are you get enough vitamin C. The current RDA is between 70mg and 100mg for adults. Heavy smokers and frequent drinkers are at the highest risk of having a vitamin C deficiency. Despite the low RDA studies have suggested that taking 500mg of vitamin C twice a day can be the most beneficial.
Of all the vitamins, vitamin D is the one you’re most likely to be deficient in, especially if you live north of the equator. You can get small amounts from fatty fish and egg yolks, but most of your vitamin D intake comes from the sun.
In order to get enough vitamin D from the sun, you need to spend 10 to 15 minutes under the midday sun without any sunscreen for a few days each week. Obviously, the less clothing the better. This is fine for the summer months, but not so great when winter comes around.
Vitamin D deficiency is common all over the world, even in countries with sunshine all-year-round. Supplementing 400-800IU is sufficient for the majority of people, but for those already deficient doses as high as 5000IU are often recommended by physicians. Your doctor can easily test your vitamin D levels to assess how much you should take.
Iron is found in every cell of the human body. It is needed to make hemoglobin and myoglobin. It is found in food sources such as liver, oysters, red meat, sardines, broccoli, spinach, and iron-fortified foods. Looking at that list it’s easy to see that a lot of people don’t get enough.
The most common signs of deficiency are weakness, fatigue, and brittle nails. A deficiency can also cause anemia. A daily dosage of around 200mg of iron, split into three separate doses should be sufficient.
Zinc is necessary for adequate growth and maintenance of the human body. It’s most crucial role is the upkeep of immune system function, reducing inflammation and wound healing. You can safely supplement up to 50mg of zinc daily. Zinc supplementation can even help fight the common cold.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical functions in the human body. As well as supporting the function of nerves, muscles, and tissue it can also play a big part in making sure we get good quality sleep.
The recommended daily intake of Magnesium is around 350mg. It’s mainly sourced from nuts, greens, and whole grains, so if these aren’t a regular part of your diet, it could be important to take a magnesium supplement.
Many people suffer from chronic pain in their joints often as a result of arthritis and osteoarthritis. The general wear and tear and active lifestyle can also put extra pressure on the joints. While OTC painkillers and anti-inflammatories might help to mask the pain, these supplements can help give your joints a fighting chance.
Glucosamine is naturally found in cartilage, the connective tissue that prevents bones from rubbing against each other. Supplementing glucosamine can help to prevent the breakdown of cartilage associated with arthritis.
The typical dosage for glucosamine is 1,500mg a day split into three 500mg doses to help reduce inflammation and support healthy joints.
The omega-3 fatty acids that are present in fish oil can help to reduce tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. While omega-3s can be sourced from oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, they are one of the cheapest and most available supplements on the market. The recommended dose is one to three grams per day.
Turmeric is a staple of Ayurvedic medicine and contains a compound called curcumin which has been scientifically proven. Turmeric spices only contain about three percent curcumin so if you’re trying to make the most of its anti-inflammatory properties its best to supplement.
The usual dose is around 1,500mg a day taken as three 500mg doses. On its own, curcumin isn’t very bioavailable so a 1,500mg dose is best taken with 60mg of Piperine (black pepper extract).
Vitality & Immune System Support
Being alive is all about feeling alive and in order to do so it’s important to keep our immune systems functioning well and maintaining a sense of well-being. The following three supplements can help to boost natural energy levels and keep illness at bay.
Korean Ginseng is taken in dose or around 200 to 400mg a day. It can be quite expensive to get good quality ginseng products due to how the plant is prepared. Ginseng is traditionally used to fight off stress, boost energy levels, improve immune system function, help balance mood, and enhance cognition.
Ashwagandha can help to calm the brain, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve immune system function, making it a great choice for an overall well-being supplement. Doses between 250mg and 600mg a day have been found effective at reducing cortisol levels and improving sleep quality
If you want to know why you should supplement melatonin you should look at your phone screen. Or look away more often as it happens! Melatonin is released by your pineal-gland to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. The most obvious sign of a deficiency is poor sleep, but this can lead to higher cortisol levels, raised blood pressure, and poor immune system function.
The blue light emitted from our tablets and phone screens actually suppress our natural melatonin production, so if turning off the outside world isn’t an option then supplementing melatonin can help to return your sleep cycle back to what it should be. Supplements range from one to 10mg. Taking too much, especially when you don’t need it can further interrupt your natural sleep cycle.
The gut is often referred to as the second brain, and much like your primary brain, you want to keep it healthy. Probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in your body. Think of them as the good bacteria.
Probiotic supplements such as ProbioZen can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria within your digestive system helping to prevent digestive issues such as diarrhea and bloating.
If you’re considering supplements there’s a large chance that you’re already active when it comes to pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Exercising regularly is a great way to improve overall health and well-being. These two supplements should be on every fitness enthusiast’s shopping list
We obtain protein from food, but depending on your fitness goals, supplementing a little extra with good quality protein powders can help you to build lean muscle, recover quicker, and even aid weight loss.
The best way to ascertain whether or not protein supplements are for you is to calculate your recommended daily protein intake here. We recommend working towards the upper limit of the CDC recommendation if you are physically active. If you don’t think you’re meeting the recommended amount then its time to start a protein supplement.
Creatine is the most scientifically researched and approved gym supplement, but it offers more than just bigger muscles. While it is used to improve strength, recovery, and muscle mass it has also been found to be beneficial for overall cognitive function. The recommended dosage of creatine is 5g a day either just before or just after exercise.
Let This Guide to Supplements Improve Your Health
If there’s one caveat to go along with this guide to supplements it is that vitamins and other supplements should always be part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. There are no magical cures for poor health, unfortunately, but when the right supplements are paired with nutritious food, plenty of water, and exercise, you start to give your mind and body a fighting chance.
If you’re uncertain about starting a supplement regimen be sure to consult your physician as they can help you to ascertain and possible deficiencies you might have, and recommended suitable dosage.
For healthier lifestyle tips be sure to take a look around the rest of our site.